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Police arrest 3 in string of boat burglaries and vandalism

By BERNARD VAUGHAN Staff Writer, (609) 978-2012/Press of Atlantic City

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - Police arrested two juveniles and an 18-year-old man last Saturday and Sunday on charges of burglary, theft and criminal mischief in the break in of numerous boats in Holiday Harbor Marina, according to Detective George Thompson.

So far, police say the three entered 20 boats, causing estimated damages between $30,000 and $40,000.

The incidents occurred over the course of several days in February, police said.

The three also stole VCRs, DVD players, stereo equipment, VHF radios and other electronic equipment, Thompson said. Thompson said a conservative estimate of the value of the stolen goods would be at least $5,000.

The suspects appear to have split the stolen goods among themselves and did not try to sell anything, Thompson said.

Bob Lange, the owner of the marina, said he believes the burglaries and thefts actually started in January. At first, he thought it was just vandalism. Some boat owners were slow to discover the damage because they are summer homeowners in the area, and they check on their boats only occasionally during the winter, Lange said.

"They ripped some canvasses off boats and we thought it was vandalism, then we found that it was a little more than vandalism," Lange said.

A month-long investigation led to the arrest of Matthew Buffa, 18, of Waretown, and two 16-year-old juveniles, police said. All three admitted to entering the marina boat yard and breaking into the boats, police said.

Thompson said they used screwdrivers to break door locks on the boats.

"Unfortunately, boats aren't made with a fortified door like a house would be," Thomson said.

Thompson said police are searching for at least one other accomplice who is a juvenile.

"They've implicated others," Thompson said of the three who police said confessed. "We just haven't been able to track them down."

About 260 boats are docked at Holiday Harbor Marina, Lange said. He also said damage could be higher than the police's estimate.

"Until everybody checks their boats we won't know the full extent of it," Lange said.

Police have recovered most of the stolen items and are attempting to return the goods to the owners, Thompson said.

All three were released to the custody of their parents to await formal charges, Thomson said. Charges have not been finalized, but Thompson said they would include numerous counts of burglary, theft, criminal mischief and criminal trespassing.

Lange said he has never had an incident like this at his marina, and could not recall any similar incident in any other area marinas. Because of the incidents, Lange said he will install an electronic alarm system at the marina.

"It happens all the time at marinas in the cities, where they have 10-foot fences and guards with guns," Lange said. "But this is Waretown; we've never had a problem like this."

To e-mail Bernard Vaughan at The Press:
 
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